Former Eastern Kentucky University football players Noah Spence, Jordan Berry and Matt Lengel had memorable seasons in the National Football League (NFL) in 2016. Berry and Lengel will see their seasons extended in the playoffs for the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots respectively.
As a rookie, Spence played in all 16 games and helped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 9-7 record, three more wins than last season. The defensive end totaled 22 tackles, 5.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and two pass deflections. Spence had five tackles, a season-high 1.5 sacks and forced a fumble in a 14-5 victory over Seattle on Nov. 27. He was voted by fans as the NFL Rookie of the Week after that performance and was chosen as the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for November.
Spence was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the 39th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
In his second season in the league, Berry improved his punting average by three yards per punt to 45.6 yards. He placed 25 punts inside the 20 yard line and had a net punt average of 40.2 yards per punt. He ranked ninth among 16 punters in the American Football Conference (AFC) in punting average and seventh in net average.
Berry put five of his eight punts inside the 20 yard line in Pittsburgh’s 24-16 win over Cincinnati on Sept. 18. He averaged 55 yards on three punts at Philadelphia on Sept. 25. The former Colonel capped the regular season by booting a season-long 64 yard punt against Cleveland on Sunday.
The Steelers finished with the second-best record in the AFC at 11-5 and will be the No. 2 seed in the playoffs.
Lengel, a tight end, spent the 2015 season and part of this season on the Cincinnati Bengals’ practice squad. Midway through the 2016 campaign, Lengel signed with the New England Patriots and was added to their active roster. He’s played in six games, caught two passes for 22 yards and scored a touchdown. The blocking specialist caught his first NFL touchdown pass against the New York Jets on Dec. 24, an 18-yard reception. He had one catch for four yards in the season finale 35-14 victory at Miami.
The Patriots have the best record in the NFL at 14-2 and will enter the playoffs as a Super Bowl favorite.
Spence, Berry and Lengel are among 36 former Colonels that have played in the NFL.
Spence, a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania native, ended his junior season in 2015 at EKU by being chosen as an All-American by the Associated Press, STATS, Walter Camp Foundation and College Sporting News. He was also chosen as the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) National Defensive Performer of the Year by College Football Performance Awards. He ranked fourth nationally in tackles for a loss (2.0/game) and fifth in sacks (1.05/game).
Berry was a member of the EKU football program from 2009-13 and was a three-time All-Ohio Valley Conference punter. As a senior, the native of Essendon, Victoria, Australia was part of a punting unit that ranked first in the OVC and fifth nationally (FCS) in net punting at 39.08 yards per punt.
Lengel, a native of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, played tight end for the Colonels from 2010 to 2014. He fought back from season-ending injuries in 2012 and 2013 to play in 12 games as a senior with nine starts.
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